Structure and Routine Can Do Amazing Things For You Too

Growing up I did not have much structure in my house. That’s just the truth. Having younger siblings, up to three before I left, the schedule revolved around them. It was a great childhood for me, riding my bike until dark and running the neighborhood with my friends. However, it started to feel really out of control when things fell apart. There were no expectations of me at all. Being a mom myself now, I understand what mom guilt feels like and how it affects the way you manage your children. I cant imagine the mom guilt my mother carried around all day when my dad was in prison. She let me get away with a lot because of that. Unfortunately, the truth is, kids thrive from boundaries, accountability and structure, and I had exactly none. Success was not an option for me.

We took a bus ride up to Missanabie at the edge of Dog Lake. The bus ride up was was uneventful. They didn’t try to force us to comply with anything. They let us continue to curse and smoke and be obnoxious little brats the whole way to Canada. When we got to the dock, a man over 6 feet tall with red hair and a huge face and upper body, wearing a red plaid shirt and big lace up boots took a few us onto a small boat with a woman. “Well, if it isn’t f*cking Paul Bunyan”. (I’m a comedian) My famous last words. Sorry for the language folks but the dramatic climax of the story really suffers if I don’t include that part. It’s one of my favorites. He and I have joked about that for years. His name is Peter. He tells me I can not smoke in the boat. Next to the gasoline and all. The truth is, it’s immediately apparent, he’s as much of a badass as I am. If not more. This man is intimidating. And I’m soon to find out he’s not the only one.

He never said the word “island”. But the boat took us around many curves and bends of the most remote and picturesque Canadian landscape you can imagine. We arrived at a long dock and some men were there to help us unload our bags. We took a long long walk to Starr cabin and stood on large slab of Canadian shield, smooth grey rock that is lighter than slate and covers most of the surface and lies only a few inches beneath the moss that covers the ground.

They went through our bags and introduced us to our team leader, Paul. I packed with my aunt and aside from cigarettes and a lighter, I didn’t have anything to confiscate except nail clippers. I still had a very apathetic and dismissive attitude at this point. I still didn’t care. Many of the girls had bags of things confiscated. Make-up, razors, mirrors, razors, and all jewelry. There was a lot of teenage girl pouting, sulking and crying that day. We set up our bunks in a clean but dirty cabin. We each had a bunk, a hook, and a shelf. It was still very cold in May in Canada. Parts of the lake were still frozen. There was a in the cabin but when you woke up in the morning you could see your breath.

The first few weeks were rough. I’ll go more into detail on the “ranks” (levels) at a later time. But for someone who hadn’t even been in school for a while and a bunch of lazy good for nothing teenage loafers, our new schedule was an adjustment – to say the least. I don’t know what time it was when we woke up, but it was often still dark. I’ll guess 6 am. We had allotted times for everything we did. 1 minute. Yes ONE MINUTE to be out of bed and dressed. We laid our clothes out on the floor the night before. Five minutes to make our bunks and 10 minutes to clean our personal space (I think, it’s a little foggy). We would go outside, do chores for 20 minutes, do devotions, do calisthenics (ha ha yes just exercise but that’s what they called it) and run to breakfast.

Paul was a runner. We ran behind him everywhere we went. Let me clear about something. I. HATE. RUNNING. All running. Any running. I remember vividly, in my sleep, hearing his feet run up to the cabin and feeling the dread of running to the lodge for breakfast in 30 minutes sweeping over me. I’m guessing it was 1/4 mile? For this lazy teenage smoker who refused to run whilst in track and smoked at least a half a pack of cigarettes a day, it was no fun. It infuriated me. I would cry. Sometimes girls would refuse to run, sit down on the path, or have a total meltdown over it. We’ll talk about punishment for insubordination later…

One thing this rigid schedule taught me was that structure made sense. It was a single comfort in a desert of discomfort. I knew what would happen every day and how it would go. I clung to it. it was safety. Up until we moved to Lana’i, I was making my own work schedule for the most part. I was working from home part time and traveling the rest of the week. It became really obvious really quickly that setting my own boundaries and structure without direct accountability, is still a big challenge for me. It felt like self-induced chaos. I just didn’t know what to do, when. I called my boss and he helped me set some goals and build some structure into my schedule. It was still a challenge but it helped me understand how I function best, with accountability. Even though I hate accountability. I need it desperately to not go off the deep end into my own selfishness.

33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace — as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

1 Cor. 14:33 nIV

I would encourage you to set some personal boundaries for yourself, or have someone else talk through your routine with you. Maybe all you need to stop the chaos is a better routine. Maybe with some predictability, you wouldn’t feel so out of control. My new position here on Lana’i is much more structured and predictable. While I do miss the freedom, the schedule has made me feel much less like I’m lost and spiraling out of control. Do you have a routine that works really well for you to keep your head clear and your focus refined? Please share some things that have worked well for you.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. hyyps://

2 Timothy 1:7 NOV
  1. Akhilesh

    Well written!

    • nenamhart

      Thank you!

  2. Marsha

    I am loving your blog. The first 2 made me cry now i am more curious.
    I was a horrible mom. I loved my kids but worked too much it was unstructured. I would wake them up during the night even 1am to spend time with them.
    At work i have set routines and times i need things time done by it was a habit i developed in med/surg when the day seemed out of control. With major changes i have lost my routine and need to find my groove.

    Until i find my groove physical labor and organizing my house had been comforting.

    Over the years i have found i do best when only one aspect of my life is in chaos at a time.

    So with change at work and doing school. I could not address issues with my oldest instead it is on hold.

    As you post i find myself learning and growing. With more to go

    • nenamhart

      Thank you Marsha. It’s been a struggle for me as well. Being a mom is hard!

  3. Abby Hart

    I love reading these. ❤

    • nenamhart

      I’m so glad!!

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